ARIA Board of Directors withdraws Denis Handlin his icon award
The professional body’s Icon Award is presented periodically at a VIP ceremony in Sydney, in the hours leading up to the annual ARIA Awards.
Only five ARIA icons were awarded. The first went to the late Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski in 2013, followed by Handlin, Sebastian Chase (2016), Roger Davies (2017) and Michael Chugg (2019).
ARIA’s turnaround follows the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Monday night (11 October) premiere of Face to face with music: the Sony music scandal, a 47-minute documentary that exposed the “culture of fear, harassment and bullying” in a workplace run by Handlin for 37 years.
The next day, the Q Music trade organization revoked Handlin’s honorary award at the 2020 Queensland Music Awards in his hometown of Brisbane.
The documentary, noted Kris Stewart, CEO of QMusic, “exposed the undeniable fact that cultivation under Denis Handlin’s leadership at Sony has had a significant human cost.”
He continued, “Toxic workplaces, whether in the office, in the boardroom, on stage or behind, have no future in Australian music. We cannot and should not accept or celebrate this kind of culture. The future of music must be a secure, united and equitable future for all. “
ARIA, for which Handlin served as chairman of the board for two separate terms, released his own brief statement on Tuesday.
“No one should feel unsafe, harassed, discriminated against or bullied in the workplace,” one reads. “ARIA will continue to work for safety, inclusion and equality across the music industry, especially through the process of cultural change that began in May of this year. We will listen to the voices that need to be heard and give our wholehearted support every step of the way. “
Handlin has amassed a vast collection of prestigious accolades during a 51-year career with Sony Music, which abruptly ended on June 21.
In light of the Four corners exposed, a growing number of industry insiders have taken to social media to demand that Handlin return his awards.
Mark Poston, former president of EMI Music Australasia and senior LGBTQ + manager of an Australian music label, addressed the ABC investigation in an op-ed published on Wednesday by Industry Observer.
“I think the immediate action needed for ARIA is to take Denis Handlin away from his ARIA Icon Award,” he wrote. “I suggest to you that this man is anything but an icon. You could say he’s iconic for all the wrong reasons – that would be a better summary. Perhaps the right way to frame this could be that this particular type of icon should never be allowed to exist again. “
Reports of the toxic work environment from national Sony Music company have surfaced in recent months in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian and other mainstream media.
Earlier this year, as these surveys rocked the local industry, Sony Music Entertainment launched a review of the ANZ company’s workplace culture.
“We take all allegations of bullying, harassment and other inappropriate behavior by our employees very seriously and are vigorously investigating them,” read a statement issued by Sony Music Entertainment.
Sony Music Entertainment’s review is said to be ongoing.